Virtualization in Wi-Fi to Fix Many Long-Standing Customer Experience Issues (2023)

By Ian Wheelock, CommScope Inc; Steve Arendt, CableLabs Advanced Technology Group; Steve Glennon, CableLabs Advanced Technology Group; John Bahr, CableLabs Advanced Technology Group; Tucker Polomik, CableLabs Advanced Technology Group; Zackary Foreman, CableLabs Advanced Technology Group

Wi-Fi® has become the primary way that people and their many devices connect to the internet at home and on the go. As homes have more devices and are getting bigger, people are adding more Wi-Fi access points to their networks to improve coverage and capacity. Devices often switch from one access point to another as they move around, whether within the homes or when moving between home, work, and elsewhere. However, how devices move around the home has been a long-held issue within Wi-Fi, even with a variety of solutions to the problem. Devices like smartphones, tablets, and wearables sometimes stay connected to an access point even when it cannot provide a good enough connection. This can be extremely frustrating for users who expect Wi-Fi to be as reliable as their cellphones. Mobile Wi-Fi solves this Wi-Fi roaming issue by creating a virtual basic service set (VBSS) for each device that is moving around. This technology, developed by CableLabs and shared with groups like the Wi-Fi Alliance, forms the basis of the solution. A reference implementation, which was used to produce the results in this paper, has been designed and contributed to the prpl Foundation prplMesh project. The decision of which access point handles the VBSS for a device is made by an intelligent Controller function (with interfaces to the multiple access points in the Wi-Fi network), and not by the device. This allows devices to roam between access points smoothly, with the Controller making sure the device connects to the best access point and radio. The system can also disconnect the device if the Wi-Fi network cannot handle its needs anymore, such as when a device departs from home. What is important is that this solution works with older devices too, without needing changes or newer Wi-Fi features on the device. Mobile Wi-Fi will improve the user experience in homes, apartment complexes, businesses, and, eventually, in a city-wide manner to ensure completely seamless Wi-Fi mobility.

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